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Amid pushback, Alberta health minister defends plan to ease COVID-19 isolation, masking, testing rules – Globalnews.ca

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Health Minister Tyler Shandro is defending the province’s plan to do away with most of its public health measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, as case numbers climb in Alberta.

“This is a plan that is based on the science and based on the data,” Shandro said during an unrelated news conference in Edmonton Thursday morning.

“We know that people will continue to have that anxiety but this was work that was done by public health based on the science, based on the data.”

Read more:
Alberta to adjust COVID-19 masking, isolation, testing rules over next month

Effective Thursday, close contacts will no longer be notified of exposure by contact tracers nor will they be legally required to isolate – although it still recommended.

The province will also end asymptomatic testing.

Further measures will be eliminated Aug. 16. People who test positive for COVID-19 will not be mandated to isolate at that time but it is still strongly recommended. Isolation hotels will also close as quarantine supports end.

Also Aug. 16, provincial mandatory masking orders will be lifted. Some masking in acute care or continuing care facilities may still be required.

Effective Aug. 31, COVID-19 testing will no longer be available through assessment centres. It will be available in primary care settings including doctors’ offices or in acute care and hospital settings.


Click to play video: 'Alberta bringing COVID-19 measures in line with other respiratory viruses: Hinshaw'



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Alberta bringing COVID-19 measures in line with other respiratory viruses: Hinshaw


Alberta bringing COVID-19 measures in line with other respiratory viruses: Hinshaw

While the province could not point to another jurisdiction that is taking a similar approach, Shandro maintained this is the next step as the province moves from a pandemic to an endemic response, adding that Alberta is leading the way.

“The three stages of any pandemic begins with containment, then we move to mitigation and then it moves to the endemic response where we live with a virus in our community,” Shandro said.

“Other provinces know that this is going to be the inevitable next step in Canada for all provinces.

“We did know that this is — when we do move to an endemic response more clearly and (with) some of these measures, that some folks were going to have questions — but I think that’s why we’re trying to do it in a thoughtful way, in a staged approach based on really important metrics that were developed, that were based on the science and based on the data.”

Read more:
COVID-19 is surging in Alberta, but experts say other provinces shouldn’t worry yet

Shandro said the metrics were chosen by Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw and the 16 people who work in her office. The health minister did not reveal what the metrics were, but pointed to 65 per cent of the eligible Alberta population being fully vaccinated as an example of one the measures that led to the further easing of restrictions.

“This isn’t the first pandemic that the world has responded to. This isn’t the first pandemic that we’ve seen in Alberta,” Shandro said.

“The folks — the 16 folks in Dr. Hinshaw’s office, as well as the MOHs (medical officers of health) throughout AHS — have an extraordinary amount of experience in public health and in response to other pandemics and when it comes to infectious disease.”

As of July 27, 75.6 per cent of eligible Albertans had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 64.3 per cent are fully immunized.

Read more:
Nenshi says lifting Alberta’s remaining COVID-19 health orders is the ‘height of insanity’

Since July 1, people who were not immunized made up 95 per cent of confirmed COVID-19 cases, 92 per cent of those requiring hospital care and 95 per cent of COVID-19 deaths, according to the province.

“This shows that the pressures on the health system and our concerns about protecting lives are changing and moving to an endemic response,” Shandro said.

“We know that there will continue to be some transmission but the data shows that what the vaccines are doing is making it less infectious and less deadly and that’s the good thing that allows us to move to that endemic response.”

Shandro stressed that anyone who is eligible and has not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine should book an appointment.

Dr. Joe Vipond, an emergency room physician based in Calgary, said with new cases doubling every five days, now is not the time to be letting up.

“Right now, when everything that I know about COVID tells me we should be ringing the alarm bells and putting in much more powerful public health restrictions, the answer from the medical officer of health is that we are going to be the first jurisdiction in the world to pretend COVID has gone away,” he said.

Vipond said there is too much unknown with COVID-19 variants. With no data about what lifting these measures will do, he added it’s hard to say what will happen. He worries with testing changes, patients will end up in his emergency room and also worries that those under 12 who are not eligible to be vaccinated are being put at risk.

“I just want to do my job. I just want to love my kids. I don’t want to take this on, I don’t want to take on this government.

“I just want to be safe, right? That’s the only reason why I’ve ever fought is so that my kids are safe,” he said, getting emotional.


Click to play video: 'COVID-19 resurges in BC, Alberta, prompting fears of 4th wave'



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COVID-19 resurges in BC, Alberta, prompting fears of 4th wave


COVID-19 resurges in BC, Alberta, prompting fears of 4th wave

The changes were announced by Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Wednesday afternoon as the province recorded 194 new cases of COVID-19 — the highest daily case count since early June.

There are now 1,334 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta.

The latest reported R-value, or rate of infection, for Alberta was 1.48 for the week of July 19 to July 25. The rate was slightly higher in Calgary at 1.5 — one of the highest R-values seen in Alberta throughout the pandemic.

“COVID is not over… COVID will not be eliminated. We need to learn to live with it,” Hinshaw said Wednesday. “With the vaccine readily available, the need for the types of extraordinary restrictions we used in the past has diminished.

“We need to make sure that Alberta’s health system is able to support all patients. That is why we are making changes to bring COVID-19 measures in line with how we handle other respiratory viruses.”

There are currently 84 people in hospital with COVID-19, with 18 of those people being treated in intensive care.

With files from The Canadian Press and Emily Mertz, Global News.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Canadian wastewater surveillance expanding to new public health threats: Tam – CP24

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Laura Osman, The Canadian Press


Published Friday, August 12, 2022 2:53PM EDT


Last Updated Friday, August 12, 2022 4:53PM EDT

OTTAWA – Plans are underway to sift through Canadian sewage to test for and measure monkeypox, polio and other potential health threats, the country’s chief public health officer said Friday.

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, wastewater detection became a key way to track the spread of the virus, especially as free lab tests for individuals were phased out for all but a few in later waves.

Dr. Theresa Tam said the experts at the National Microbiology Lab have now discovered a promising approach to detect monkeypox in wastewater and will use the infrastructure developed during the pandemic to look for it.

“Moving forwards, it could form part of our monitoring of the disease activity going up and down across the country,” Tam said at a media briefing.

Tam said the method is complicated, but they’ve landed on something that can “probably” be used more broadly. How that monitoring fits into the Public Health Agency of Canada’s surveillance efforts on monkeypox is not yet clear.

The monkeypox disease comes from the same family of viruses that cause smallpox, which the World Health Organization declared eradicated around the globe in 1980.

Cases of monkeypox began to appear around the world in non-endemic countries in May.

Just this week the number of Canadian cases surpassed 1,000, though there are early signs the virus may now be spreading at a slower rate, Tam said.

The Public Health Agency of Canada also intends to start testing for polio as “soon as possible” after U.S. health officials found the polio virus in New York City’s wastewater.

The devastating virus was eradicated from Canada in 1994 and until very recently has not been found in the United States since 1993. Cases have now freshly emerged in Western nations with traditionally high rates of vaccinated people.

A positive case was discovered in New York last month.

The presence of the polio virus in the city’s wastewater suggests the virus is likely circulated locally, health authorities from the city, New York state and the U.S. federal government said Friday.

“We’re already starting to look at what the options are,” Tam said of monitoring for polio in Canada.

Polio tests are just now coming online in Ontario, said Eric Arts, a microbiology and immunology professor at Western University.

The COVID-19 pandemic proved how useful waste can be compared to person-by-person tests, he said, especially when it comes to early detection.

“Instead of testing hundreds of thousands of people kind of randomly to determine if they’re infected with a specific pathogen, or one that we don’t even know is circulating, you can just get a wastewater sample and test 100,000 people with one test,” he said.

Wastewater surveillance can be adapted for other things as well, she said. Even before the pandemic, Tam said the public health agency was looking at ways to scan for antimicrobial resistant organisms, or superbugs as they’re often called.

Wastewater detection is still imperfect though, Tam warned.

“You’re dealing with a slurry of many things with a lot of DNA, RNA, all sorts of things,” Tam said, putting it politely.

That slurry includes countless viruses and virus mutations. Some vaccines, like the oral vaccine for polio given in some countries that includes a live, attenuated virus, can also be confused with the real thing in a wastewater sample.

“It’s not terribly easy,” she said.

Different countries use different methods, Tam said, and even within Canada there’s a lot of innovation happening.

“I think one of the roles of our lab is to then look at the best methods and try and bring some standardization and guidance to that testing,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 12, 2022.

– With files from Adina Bresge in Toronto and The Associated Press

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Foreigners flock to Canada for monkeypox vaccine – Medical Xpress

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Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

With the monkeypox vaccine in short supply in the United States, thousands of foreigners, including Americans are flocking to Montreal to get their shots.

Canada’s second-largest city, located about 70 kilometers (43 miles) north of the US border in Quebec province, has decided to make the vaccine available to all those who consider themselves to be at risk.

ackRobb Stilson, an art director from Denver, Colorado, took advantage of the opportunity during a visit to Montreal last week.

“It’s very difficult in the States to get vaccinated,” Stilson said as he lined up to get a shot at a pop-up vaccination center together with his husband and two daughters. “I’ve friends who have waited 8 or 9 hours to get in.”

Because contact tracing is difficult, authorities in Montreal decided to offer the vaccine to all those who are at risk to stem the spread of the virus.

“As tourists, they may participate in activities that may expose them and so in a way, we’re combatting the pandemic by letting them become vaccinated here so that they don’t transmit the infection either here or when they go back home,” Donald Vinh, infectious disease specialist at the McGill University Health Center, told AFP.

Since the vaccination campaign was launched in mid-May, as soon as the first cases of monkeypox were detected, Montreal has inoculated 18,500 people, 13 percent of them foreigners.

The goal is to administer 25,000 doses and vaccinate some 75-80 percent of the population deemed to be at risk, in particular men who have sex with men or with multiple partners.

“I hope the strategy used by the public health agency of Montreal is a beacon for other public health agencies to use as a vaccination strategy,” Vinh added.

In the western province of British Columbia, health authorities decided last week they will no longer offer the vaccine to foreigners citing limited supplies and the fact that it was becoming more available in the United States.

Faced with a lack of available doses, American health authorities on Tuesday authorized a new injection procedure which will make it possible to inoculate five times the number of people with the same amount of the drug.

As of August 11, Canada has registered 1,059 confirmed cases of monkeypox, but authorities see signs of infections beginning to slow.


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Foreigners flock to Canada for monkeypox vaccine (2022, August 12)
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Elevated risk of Monkeypox in Saskatchewan: SHA – CTV News Regina

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The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) has alerted the public to the elevated risk of acquiring Monkeypox through anonymous sexual contact.

“So far we’ve had three cases, who were exposed out of the province,” said Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab.

“We think the situation has changed now, in the last week. Where we have had evidence of exposures happening in Saskatchewan, in many cases happening through anonymous sexual contacts with people who have been coming into the province.”

Shahab noted that the exposures were happening almost exclusively to those in the gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men (gbMSM) community.

“We think now that there is a higher risk that we may see ongoing transmission within Saskatchewan … particularly in this community.”

Shahab noted that these trends were similar to what is being seen across Canada. He urged those in Saskatchewan at risk not to hesitate and reach out.

“If you belong to the gbMSM community it’s really important that at the first sign of illness you do contact the Healthline (811) for advice and seek testing and isolate till the diagnosis is made.”

INCREASED ELIGIBILITY FOR VACCINES

The SHA announced that Monkeypox vaccine requirements would be expanded to both post and pre exposure, following the alert.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has set aside 99,000 doses of the vaccine, with 50,000 doses being given to provinces so far, according to Shahab.

Those eligible for vaccinations include select high-risk contacts 18 years and older who are identified ideally within 4 days and up to 14 days after an exposure. Those who are at a high risk of exposure are also eligible. The SHA’s criteria includes:

  • Are transgender or self-identify as two spirit, bisexual, gay or men who have sex with men (MSM)

And one or more of the following:

  • Have had a recent sexually transmitted infection (in the past six months);
  • Report having had two or more sexual partners in the past six months;
  • Had (in the past six months) or plan to have sexual contact involving an exchange of money or other goods for sexual services;
  • Report having had (in the past six months) or planning to have sexual contact at an event or social gathering where there is MSM-themed sexual activity (sauna, bath house, club);
  • Have had (in the past six months) or plan to have sexual contact with an anonymous partner (at an event or via a hook-up app);
  • Planning to travel in the next three months to an area in Canada or internationally currently reporting monkeypox cases;

OR

  • Individuals 18 years and older who work or volunteer at an event or social gathering where there is MSM themed sexual activity (sauna, bath house, club).

The SHA has outlined how to properly isolate and protect others while contagious with Monkeypox on its website.

Monkeypox is a rare viral illness that causes fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes and lethargy, followed by the development of a rash over a person’s body. The disease is not easily spread from person to person according to the SHA. Monkeypox is spread through:

  • Close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact.
  • Touching bodily fluids or lesions of a person who is sick with the disease.
  • Exposure to contaminated objects such as bed linens or clothing.

There are currently around 30,000 Monkeypox cases globally, with approximately 1,000 of those occurring in Canada.

Saskatchewan’s current criteria for vaccination and its overall approach has been informed by other provincial responses such as in Ontario and Quebec, according to Shahab.

“We really hope that by this approach in Saskatchewan we can try to avert a quick or high surge of cases and also prevent further transmission.”

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